There will inevitably come a time in your business when a client has very strong opinions about what they want and don’t want, and it can come off as negative criticism. Which may be a good sign; after all, you’re helping them make a very important decision!
In that instance you may think it is game over for your working relationship and yet it doesn’t have to be. In fact, taking criticism and turning it on its head so you establish yourself as an understanding and reliable professional will actually strengthen your relationship with either the unhappy client or the others. With the right approach you won’t have to worry about a negative review or sour memory again. Take control of all types of business relationships by healing bruises most effectively.
Knowing that 91% of customers who have had a bad experience will not willingly do business with you again1 and that if you resolve a complaint in the customer’s favour, they will do business with you 70% of the time2. The following steps are important in order to turn bad experiences on their heads.
When people have a strong opinion, they want to be heard, and the best thing to do is to let them talk for as long as they need, and actually listen. Being available to listen to their feedback is the first step in creating an open and trusting environment.
When you truly hear a client out, you learn a lot more about their needs and wants, and are more easily able to step into their shoes. The main point here is to let the customer tell their entire story without interruption. Sometimes, we just want someone to listen.
Be an Advocate
I think the best way to gain trust with someone is to show that you are on their side, and that your goals are completely aligned with theirs. When a customer begins to doubt you, their trust in you begins to waiver.
If you reassure your customer that you are completely on their side and want the exact same outcome they do, not only will it boost your credibility, but the customer’s trust in you and your relationship will be restored. Their perception of you will change drastically just with your reassuring language.
Advocating for the client will always be the biggest and strongest solution for your professional relationships, no matter what.
Being an advocate may appear to be fairly obvious. When a customer criticizes something you have done, don’t ignore them. This means going beyond taking a note of their concerns or giving an artificial or scripted response.
The most beneficial thing you can do for your relationship is to do your research, understand what went wrong, and seek out the best alternatives or corrections. Putting in your due diligence will not just be educational for you, but will allow you to be more empathetic towards your customers.
Whatever you decide to say, make sure that your response is respectful and sincere. You want your customers to know that you really do care about them. You should also thank them for the feedback, even if it is awful.
If you do not have a solution to the problem, it goes a long way to demonstrate that you put in some effort to find a solution.
After you have found out the problem by listening, reassured them that you are on their side, the best way to maintain a good relationship is to add value to the customer. The more consistently you engage with a customer in a way that centres around their interests, the more quickly you strengthen the relationship.
There is always more to a person or a relationship than one criticism. Remember to always put context around your follow-up and that personalizing your outreach establishes trust. You are more likely to get referrals and repeat business from customers when you are relevant and personal to their needs.
When it comes to customers, having good relationships is everything. However, it is important to have a clear plan/strategy in case something goes wrong. With a good strategy, any negative criticism will be water under the bridge if handled well; the skeptics can end up becoming your brand champions. Your overall strategy should be founded on the belief that any customer interaction will be for the benefit of the customer and that you will do whatever is possible to find solutions that will work for them.
In summary in order to turn negative criticism into positive engagement
- Listen first – Understand the problem by allowing the customer to fully express their discomfort
- Always be an advocate – Establish the customer’s confidence by showing them that your goals are aligned
- Take action – Put all your energy in resolving the matter raised by the customer
- Engage continuously – Reach out to your customers regularly with information that adds value to them.
- Be positive- water under the bridge if handled well.